The traffic slows as people transform from impatience to reflection, then boredom to annoyance. Gridlock is almost like a miniature Falling Down (1993), set on an Irish country back road.

The horizon piles up in a mixture of metallic brands and colours. There’s your nouveau riche couple in a Jag ahead, a mouthy grafter still sat in his work gear behind, and the aloof nutter-next-door looking type trying to escape his own sweat. So, a horse and cart has been tipped up down the road, the police have been called, and the day disperses into suns unable to tolerate each other.

Eoin (Moe Dunford, Vikings) is trying to organise his day, as his daughter Emma (Robyn Dempsey) sits in the back. She pulls the drawstring of her doll over and over, making it burble the same inaudible words. He takes the doll away, needing her to stop, and decides to get out so he can find out what’s happening up ahead. On his return to the car: no daughter, no doll.

So the whodunnit begins. Gridlock delivers its panic in a way that is formulaic, but nonetheless universal. Yes, all of the supporting characters (now suspects) do come across as one dimensional – Rory (Peter Coonan) the excited vigilante, Liam (Steve Wall) the wiry omega – yet again, this is forgiven in the short film medium, since when you only have 22 minutes, concept is allowed to be king over characterisation.

Ian Hunt Duffy’s film shows us the irony of witch hunt thinking, where the hunting itself reduces those involved to basal mentality. This dynamic has never been mocked more than in the Brass Eye special ‘Paedogeddon!’, which Channel 4 managed to broadcast at the turn of the millennium, before they were succumb by reality TV dementia (RTD).

Gridlock isn’t a mixed genre film however, and it’s interesting to see how Duffy translates the thriller template to a random country road in Ireland Kildare. It’s American in its blocky portrayals of emotion, from scene to scene, where everyone seems a little too programmed, but remains black Irish in its vigour for storytelling. These are the reasons that the film has a valid run at the Oscar 2018 nominations, after finding an appreciation at qualifying film festivals.

This film is about a bad day pushed beyond its apex, yet there is beauty in the fact that this could have been a feature film, where the narrative would have been watered down. Instead, like all good short films – from their short story roots – Gridlock takes you along the pulse of one random day, without forgetting the life and flesh that over-editing removes.

Dir: Ian Hunt Duffy
Scr: Darach McGarrigle
Cast: Moe Dunford, Robyn Dempsey, Peter Coonan, Amy De Bhrún, Ronan Leahy, Steve Wall, Joe Mullins
Prd: Simon Doyle
DOP: Narayan Van Maele  
Music: Gareth Averill
Country: Ireland
Year: 2016
Run time: 22 minutes

Follow Gridlock on Twitter to find out where it’s screening in 2017.